89th – Look up at the trees, the branches laden with most fruits and leaves are humbly bent forward.

89 milk shiv

89th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : “Look up at the trees, you will notice that the branches laden heavily with leaves and or fruits are always a little bent, bent forward a little, bent forward in humility.”

Shiv Chandra Singh. (65)

Milkman.

I encountered Shivji in south Mumbai, one early morning on my ride; he was walking, not riding, his dilapidated bicycle, carrying a load of milk packets. I knew then and there, even from the fact he looked aged, I should stop and ask him if he would like a new lease of life for his Ferrari, his old vehicle of trade – his bicycle.

I have preferred to do this, donation, for older people, as I feel it’s a kind of reward for them during their silver years, to receive a new Ferrari at nearly less than half its cost. Yes, their bicycle for them is nothing less than what the Ferrari means to Michael Schumacher!

Shivji has been selling milk since 40 years. He is from Benares, UP. His father was a farmer.

Shivji came to Bombay in 1970 looking for a job, because his familt’s financial condition was not good. He was studying in the second year of senior college when he was forced to leave his studies and migrate to Bombay to supplement the family’s agriculture income.

His elder brother was a milkman in Bombay, and he was keen that he (Shivji) join the same profession, because he was established in it and had a good clientele.

Back in the village, their family owns a little agriculture land and he told me ‘If the weather, nature, and Gods are favorable, we sometimes manage to grow some amount of wheat and rice. This year, like many other years, nature was not favorable to us, so we lost all our standing crops due to lack of rain.’

Shivji has two sons, and one daughter; his daughter and one son are married, and his other son has just graduated and is looking for a job.

Wait till you read this :- Shivji had secured a job with the Indian Navy! Let me repeat this :- Shivji had secured a job with the Indian Navy! Yet, he became a milkman. Not that being a milkman means any less as a profession, because it’s as respectable, but I was very curious to know what changed his professional circumstances from that Navy job to one delivering milk.

And as I probed, I found out it was ‘love’ that made him discard the great opportunity of the Indian Navy job and choose that of being a milkman. It was his elder brother’s love for him, and his love for his brother that was responsible for his choice and decision!

Shivji told me, ‘My brother, even when I was 22, would make me sit on his lap and feed me my meal. That is how much he loved me! So when he requested that I consider taking over his profession, (his brother wanted to return to their village and be a farmer), I accepted his wish. Because I loved his too much to say no to his wish.’

When Shivji spoke to me about his elder brother, he joined his hands as though he was referring to a God! And soon his eyes even turned moist. So deep was this humble man’s love for his brother! I say humble, because to me Shivji came across as amongst the humble recipients I have met so far; he was calm and very dignified too.

To top is all, Shivji has no regret that he turned down the job offer he had received from the Indian Navy, and he told me with immense pride , ‘Saab, Bhai ke pyar ke saamne aur koi cheez nahin, aur kuch nahin!’ (For me nothing can be greater than the love of my brother. Nothing can be greater than the love of a brother.)

Reminds me of a quote – “There was brotherhood between people who had fed from the same breast, a kinship that even time could not break. ― Khaled Hosseini’s in his book ‘The Kite Runner.’

This kinship that author Khaled quotes, and even Shivji speaking fondly about his elder brother, reminded me of my own elder brother, Rajesh. The amount of tiny sacrifices he has made, all along, to help even me bloom into the fragrance I desire to be, collectively would amount to the greatest love of my life. God bless my brother.

I asked Shivji, considering he is a family man, what is the best advice he has ever received from family, and he told me : “ Before I came to Bombay, my father told me – Look up at the trees, you will notice that the branches laden heavily with leaves and or fruits are always a little bent, bent forward a little, bent forward in humility. Always remain humble my son, just like those branches that bear the most leaves and fruits a humble mind will always be considered laden with wisdom and knowledge.’

Yes. Live like that and the fruits of your labor will be yours too to have, I thought listening to this wonderful person I felt privileged helping, thanks to our donors.

Thank you to Gunjan Shah for purchasing this new bicycle for Shivji. (Shivji also contributed substantially towards this donation.)
Gunjan messaged me a few weeks earlier, asking if he can donate a bicycle on the wonderful occasion of his son’s birthday, which is on 27th Oct.

Of course, he could, I assured him, since even my sister, Suman, had donated a wheelchair on her birthday earlier this year, and soon later a bike on the anniversary of her Mother in Law. It feels nice that some people want their special day to be special for someone else too; someone unknown to them, and someone they can never benefit from. That is true charity, too.

We all wish Gunjan Shah’s son, Dhairya, (8) a very happy Birthday. Lots of hugs and love to little Dhairya. I wish when he is a little bigger he reads this post and realizes the significance of his father’s real gift to him in this bicycle.

And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.
https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. J)

Bicycle Angels’s Idli Walas. A new initiative.

my bike Mani idli

‘Bicycle Angles’ Idli walas.’
Our new initiative! This Diwali. Happy Diwali.

Mani, an idliwala we had in the past donated a bicycle to,
( https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152093087993213&set=oa.357090647765413&type=3&theater )
will feed 3 random and poor street people ‘idli sambhar chatni’ every day.

One plate costs rs 10.

Mani sells idlis in bandra from his bicycle daily from 7 am to 11 am. He will feed the needy during his regular work hours and regular route, so no extra effort on his part, and he too will earn his living as he cooks these himself.

This concept to increase the natural embrace of Bicycle Angels arrived to me thanks to my dear friend Siddhi. It was her passion to feed the poor, daily, that fired and motivated this non profit service. Love.

(PS – We will not serve beggars at traffic signals. etc. But serve the destitute who not found begging, is thankfully what even Mani Anna believed in.)

88th recipient – Our fathers, the first ‘Superman’ of our childhood.

88 dhobi surendra

“Our fathers, the first ‘Superman’ of our childhood; before we are introduced to Hollywood or Bollywood versions of Super-People.”

Surendra Kumar Nirmal. (24)

Dhobi (Laundry service)

Surendra is from UP; His father, is alive, and was a Dhobi too.
Surendra could not study beyond the 12th , because his father had a ‘drinking problem’ for many decades. His father’s ‘bad habit’ , stemmed not just Surendra’s education, but nearly affected his father’s livelihood too.

Seeing the family’s only reliable livelihood source (Dhobi) nearly crumbling, (agriculture being unreliable due to the variable and unpredictable moods of weather) ‘proactive’ Surendra left his studies midway, after his 12th, and came to Mumbai 8 years ago to earn a livelihood. He felt he should enter his father’s profession before they lose the fairly good clientele his father had built over many decades of sheer hard labor. He tried his hands at two jobs, but soon switched to his father’s profession.

Family’s do suffer, when their prime or any member is alcoholic; I asked Surendra about his biggest suffering due to his father’s ‘drinking habit’.

He replied : “My biggest suffering was not that I had to give up on my education because of my father’s alcoholism, but that people from my village would come and tell me on my face that my father has become nearly a ‘good for nothing’, he drinks all day and is neglecting his work, and some suggested I must take over his ‘Dhobi’ work before he ruins the clientele he himself built over years.
Hearing such things about my father, and seeing him nearly vegetate, sluggish, saddened me the most. The good thing was, he never ill treated us because of his alcoholism, but people saying such bad, but true, things about my father was my biggest and saddest suffering since childhood.’

As I soaked in a son’s hurt, it made me realize, our father’s are our first heroes. The first real ‘Superman’ of our childhood, much before Hollywood or Bollywood introduce to us their own versions of Super People from the figment of their writer’s and director’s imaginations.
And however young or old we are or get, we can never see our fathers without their self esteem, their dignity and their self respect intact. Nor can we bear to see them ill, and weak or fragile physically or emotionally. Indeed, Surendra must have suffered, I thought as he continued to share his hurt.

The good news: His father has reformed completely, given up alcohol, and cultivates the little land they have in the village. The better news: Surendra, though forced into this profession, he likes and enjoys his work. He has a younger sister who is in school, and his brother works in Dubai as a Tailor.

I asked Surendra, does he drink alcohol, or does he indulge in any other kind of ‘nasha’ (eg., Cigarette, Beedi, Beatle leaves-Paan, Tammbaku, Chillum, Ganja etc…)…?
nd his reply made me recollect something George Carlin ( of ‘When Will Jesus Bring The Pork Chops’) had said: “I think alcohol should not be sold without a label saying: “This drink (alcohol) can turn you into an asshole!” 😉
Surendra had told me, that because of his father’s drinking problem, Surendra has always stayed far away from any kind of ‘nasha’ that can make one lose his or her sense of duty, dignity and self respect.

Surendra is getting married next year, his wife is a graduate and is still studying. He is happy he has found a life partner more educated than himself. However, he is not comfortable if she works to earn a living, because he fears women who go to work, far from their village, face more possibility of suffering rape or molestation.

Though he likes his Dhobi profession, as it has given him a regular and fair income, Surendra has one regret: he wishes he had listened to his parents, when he was in the 12th , and continued his education. If he had graduated, he feels, he would have a better chance at life, a better career.

I will not stand in judgment on that. But, well, speaking of chance, education and livelihoods: “Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” – Theodore Roosevelt.
And, I believe education is not necessarily important to achieve that; my own father was simply 7th Std. pass, and his work entertained and enlightened many. However, today….. education is imperative!

Thank you KS for donating this new bicycle to Surendra; Surendra contributed nearly half towards its cost.

And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.
Thank you to Gazi for Surendra’s pic with the bike.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. J)

87th recipient – Prayer is but a longing of the soul.

87 milk dedaram

87th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : “Prayer is the longing of the soul.”

Dedaram Chaudhary. (25)

Milkman.

Dedaram is from Rajasthan. His family still owns some quantity of agriculture land, which they cultivate. But the rain in that region being scanty and unreliable does not guarantee nor provide farmers a reliable nor secure livelihood, thus forcing many from his region to migrate to cities near and far.

Dedaram arrived in Mumbai in 2008 lead by his father, who was a milkman too. His father has since retired and returned to their village to cultivate their ancestral land. Incidentally, his father in law, Shivdhan, is a milkman too, and we had donated a new bicycle to him.

I happened to see Dedaram ride a dilapidated bicycle near Almeida Park, on his route delivering milk. It was raining heavily and he was riding without any protection, just like me; ‘we both have at least this in common’, is what I thought seeing him too drenched on his bicycle.

Dedaram did not study after the 10th Std because he failed to pass in spite of two attempts, and thereafter he lost interest in education. He got married four months ago, his wife is studying in college. His brother is studying too, and both his sisters are married.

Dedaram dreams of someday soon returning to his village and cultivating his land. His father purchased a tractor two years ago, so whenever he returns to his village he drives the tractor to help his father.

Something in his tone made me feel Dedaram feels a sense of loss having left his village, and he still feels lost in this city, even though he has been here since 6 years and his hands are blessed to have found work too.
I don’t know in what context Julius Caesar said this, but I remember what he once said – “I rather be first in my village than be second in Rome.’

Dedaram went on to confess he does not like living in Mumbai, and misses his village, and most importantly, he misses his mother. He still thinks of her at least twice a day!

He told me ‘Maa ka pyaar yaad aata hai. And when I was younger, whenever I did something wrong and if my father would beat me, it is my mother who would block him, by standing between us. She always protected me.
The most mischievous thing I have done, for which my father would beat me, is, I loved cricket and so I would run away from class to play cricket. I would even scale the school wall to play cricket, or watch the Indian Army military exercises nearby, at the Indo-Pak border, while school was on!’

I asked him if he prays to God, or prays to his parents, his mother, considering how much he loves her and thinks of her twice a day.

Dedaram replied – My parents are alive now, so I pray to God. Someday they will be no more, then I will pray to them. Because then they will be my Gods.’

I remember a conversation I had with P, a good friend, long after my father had sailed away. We were discussing my experience of lately meeting many people who had lost a parent/s, they had begun praying to the departed soul/s. She had lost her father when she was a teen. So I asked her what could be the reason behind why people pray to their departed parent/s, and some like me pray less to our Holy Gods and more to our departed parents.

She had said – ‘The ‘Gods we have been praying to, since childhood, the ones from our Holy books, we have really never ‘known’, we have never seen or touched that ‘God’. Whereas our parent/s, they are those Gods whose firm yet warm grasp we reached out for, whose eyes cried for us looking into our own wet ones, whose lips smiled along with our happy ones, in their bear and bull hugs we felt we will conquer not only our fears but the world too, and whose smell still remains most fresh amongst our most-fragrant of memories, hence we subconsciously begin to pray to them as they truly are the Gods we have really ourselves ‘known’.

There is one more reason. It is Mahatma Gandhi, I think, who had said – ‘Prayer has nothing to do with God nor religion. Prayer is but a longing of the soul.’

Thank you to Meghna Rodrigues and family for purchasing this bicycle for Dedaram. He contributed more than half towards its cost.

And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.
Thank you to Gazi for sending me Dedaram’s pic with the bike.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

(PS – Rs 3000 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. J)

86th recipient- Rather beg than steal.

86 dhobi sitaram

86th recipient of help (livelihood bicycle) : “Bheek mein bhi kuch izzat hai, lekin chori mein izzat bilkul nahin! Rather beg, than steal!!”

Sitaram Nirmal (47)

Dhobi (Laundry service)

Sitaram was recommended to me by my dear, and childhood pal, Maneck.
Sitaram is from UP. He lives and works in Bandra west. He has a dilapidated bike and cannot afford to even repair it. It was affecting his work, so he needed one, and he was willing to accept even a second hand bicycle. For me, that made him even more deserving for one.

Sitaram’s grandfather, and his father, were dhobis too, in their village. He has 3 daughters and one son, and they live in UP. His eldest daughter is married, and the others are studying.

He himself is educated up to the 5th Std. His parents could not afford to educate him beyond the 5th. More than their financial condition, his mother was seriously unwell for a long period, and there being no one at home to look after her, his father told him to stay home to look after his mother, and therefore he could not attend school thereafter. His eyes glazed a bit when he spoke of his mother.

I thought to myself, his career path would have been different, I think, had his mother’s serious health issues, coupled with their financial constraints, not stemmed his chance at a complete education.

However, in spite of his childhood circumstances, Sitaram spoke with a solemn affection about his mother. Proving, once again, to me, that the bond that we develop with our Mother, beginning right from sharing her sustenance with us through our umbilical cord, is never severed! Even though that cord is the very first connection between us that is instantly severed, as soon as we suck in air on our own accord.
And this heart to heart cord will withstand the tempest winds, our hurricane emotions and our transcontinental journeys, even outer space odysseys, keeping us connected even when we will grow up to become our very own people, masters of our own destiny.

Sitaram did not aspire since childhood to become a dhobi like his father and grandfather were. But back in the days, back in his village, as a youth he was not able to sustain himself financially on agriculture. While working as a daily wages laborer in fields belonging to some rich landlords, he would often not be paid his complete wages. Not just him, but many others like him.

For me, what was sadder than his exploitation, at the hands of some of rich farmers was, Sitaram had no hope that he will see better days, no hope that he and his family will court happiness someday.

I asked Sitaram, what was the best advise his parents ever gave him, he replied ‘Beg if you have to, but never rob, never steal. Bheek mein bhi kuch izzat hai. Lekin chori mein izzat bilkul nahin! (There is some quantity of respect even in begging, but there is none in stealing. Rather beg than steal!)
I hope to God circumstances never force him to beg, never compel anyone to beg. Even if it be considered by some more honorable than stealing. Because he had tears in his eyes when he said that to me.

I asked Sitaram, what about his children is he really proud about? What makes him the happiest about them?
He replied, ‘My children, and wife, they will never take even five rupees from my trouser pocket without asking me. If they happen to find any quantity of money in my trouser pocket, when they are washing my clothes, or if it’s hung on the wall hook, they will place the money on my bed or hand it to me. They are honest beings.’

And that’s when Sitaram, kind of, smiled! A tiny one. (So what if it was a tiny smile? A bud is a rose too, ya.)
It was his first smile, in the less than ten minutes that he shared a slice of his life with me.

I was happy for him, and with tiny smiles on our faces we said goodbye.
He got his bike, and in return I got to know that some amount of happiness has already courted him, it’s just that he does not know it as yet – The blessing of having obedient and honest children.

Thank you to Maneck Gilder and Pooja Bhavin Sanghvi, for buying this second hand old bike for Sitaram. (We purchased this old and used bicycle from Dhobi Shivshankar, to whom Pooja had donated a new bicycle a few weeks ago.) Sitaram was all praise for the Gilder family, they are a joint family, telling me ‘The Gilders’ are among the few people I have asked for help now and then, and have never returned empty handed. God Bless them.’

And thank you to Kohinoor Cycles (http://kohinoorcyclestores.blogspot.com/) Siddharth Vora (https://www.facebook.com/siddharth.vora.58?fref=ts) for the good discount and service.
Thank you to Gazi for Sitaram’s pic with the bike.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/309043432570135/
https://bicycleangels.wordpress.com/

(PS – Rs 2500 is what it takes to donate a new bicycle; yes, because the balance, 2000 to 2500, is contributed by the recipient. J)